What is iOS Kiosk Mode? How to enable & manage Single App Mode

Headshot of Andrea Pepper, SimpleMDM writer and MacAdmin
Andrea Pepper|July 5, 2023
Stylized product illustration
Stylized product illustration

What is iOS Single App Mode (SAM)?

Single App Mode (SAM), often referred to as "Single App Lock" or sometimes "Kiosk Mode," is a feature for supervised iPhones and iPads that restricts the device to running only one app. When SAM is enabled, this setting ensures that devices only run a specific, intended app and maintain a secure and focused environment. It's kind of like application jail! While Single App Mode is enabled, the selected app will stay in the foreground without an option for the end user to exit the application session.

What is Single App Mode used for?

There's a lot you can do with Single App Mode:

  • Disable screen touch actions

  • Disable device rotation

  • Disable volume buttons

  • Disable ringer switch

  • Disable the sleep/wake button

  • Disable auto lock

  • Enable voice over

  • Enable zoom

  • Enable inverted colors

  • Enable assistive touch

  • Enable speak selection

  • Enable mono audio

  • Allow voice-over adjustments

  • Allow zoom adjustments

  • Allow inverted color adjustments

  • Allow assistive touch adjustments

Remember: you cannot update Apps while the device is in Single App Mode. You'll need to temporarily exit Single App Mode to perform any pending App updates.

When to use Single App Mode

As a sysadmin, I can't tell you the number of times I'd come into work one morning to find that some of my users (rhymes with smales) had taken an entire conference room offline the night before in their attempts to watch golf off the iPad.

😤😤😤

But no matter your industry, Single App Mode is a simple trick that alleviates device frustrations and improves business use compliance.

Not convinced? FINE, then I'll dazzle you with my use cases: 

Enterprise: End users, like six-year-olds, will start to press buttons if you put them near an idle iPad with nothing to do. This is where SAM comes in clutch. Enabling SAM for Zoom in your Zoom Rooms is the best way to remove that temptation while maintaining your video conference rooms with minimal upkeep.

Point of Sale: Suppose you're a small business or restaurant owner using an iPad as your POS system alongside a payment app. With SAM, iOS devices become POS terminals in Single App Mode, only running necessary payment or inventory apps — and preventing accidental switches during training or peak hours.

Education: I don't run a school, but if I did… SAM would be ideal for keeping learning devices browser-focused. Sprinkle in 10–15 allowed websites with a web content filter profile and a principle of least-privilege management approach for content control, and perhaps you can minimize unexpected tech issues from computer-savvy students. For exams, tablets in SAM can lock students into the test app, preventing access to other apps, search engines, and settings.

Blown away by these scenarios? Don't worry; I'll write a how-to blog on deploying some of these profiles in the future.

SAM vs. ASAM

iOS can be configured to allow some apps to enable and disable Single App Mode independently under specific scenarios. This functionality is referred to as Autonomous Single App Mode (ASAM). Since this functionality makes the app responsible for enabling and disabling Single App Mode, apps must be explicitly designed to support ASAM. As a SimpleMDM administrator, you can specify a whitelist of apps that can place themselves in Single App Mode.

Single App Mode (SAM)

Single App Mode dedicates a device to one app, restricting access to other functions. Admins use it on supervised devices through Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions. The device gets locked to the assigned app, disabling the home button and barring access to settings or other apps. To exit, an admin must send an MDM command or adjust the configuration profile

Autonomous Single App Mode (ASAM)

Autonomous Single App Mode is like Single App Mode but allows an app to enable or disable the single app mode behavior without intervention from an MDM solution. However, the apps still need permission from IT administrators to enable or disable Autonomous Single App Mode. This feature is helpful for temporary situations where running a single app is necessary, like taking an exam or giving a presentation. The app can programmatically lock the device into single-app mode and unlock it after the user has completed the task.

How to hack kiosk mode without an MDM

If you don't have an MDM, a poor man's kiosk mode is already integrated into Apple's iOS Accessibility features. This feature is called Guided Access Mode.

Here's how to set it up on an iOS device:

1. Navigate to Settings > Accessibility > Guided Access.

2. Toggle the switch to On to enable.

kiosk-b

3. On an iOS device, navigate to the application to which you'd like to lock the device.

4. Triple click [home] button [model specific] to start Guided Access Mode and click Start.

5. Set and verify the Guided Access Mode passcode to lock the application to your screen.

To stop Guided Access Mode, triple click [home] button [model specific] and enter the Guided Access Passcode you set previously. Then click End.

This feature will give you a locked application screen, but no further management capabilities for Enterprise iOS devices are found in MDM.

How to enable Kiosk Mode with SimpleMDM

Single App Mode is enabled by the MDM administrator in the SimpleMDM interface. To enable Single App Mode or Autonomous Single App Mode, complete the following steps:

Enable:

Click Configs > Profiles and create a Single App Lock profile.

Example: Watch me build a Single App Lock profile for Chrome in SimpleMDM below.

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How to manage Kiosk Mode with SimpleMDM

Manage:

Click Devices > Groups and select a device group to view the group details screen. 

Click the Profiles tab > select the desired Single App Lock profile from the existing profiles list > click Save.

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Once you complete these steps, your supervised devices will enter Single App Mode or grant specified apps with Autonomous Single App Mode permissions.

Don't be afraid to make mistakes with SAM! We can help you disable single app mode, too. 😘

Now, what are you waiting for? Get your kiosk on. 😎


If you don't already have a SimpleMDM account, you can start a free trial today. 

Headshot of Andrea Pepper, SimpleMDM writer and MacAdmin
Andrea Pepper

Andrea Pepper is an Apple SME MacAdmin with a problematic lack of impulse control around a software update prompt. When not poking at machines, Pepper enjoys being a silly goose in sunny Colorado with her two gigantic fluffer pups.

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